From planning to monetizing, advice from experts on how to be metaverse-ready.
Since Facebook rebranded to Meta, swarms of businesses have announced their own metaverse plans. Whether it is JP Morgan, Disney or Nike, companies are seeing it as a new revenue stream and an opportunity to boost brand awareness.
Each of those diving into the metaverse, however, appears to be taking its own approach. While media companies such as Meta and Disney are looking towards producing their own platforms, companies such as Pfizer are taking advantage of existing metaverses.
Whatever their approach, businesses jump at the opportunity. Searches for “marketing metaverse” soared by 85% between October 2021 and January 2022 according to Semrush, a leading online visibility-management and content-marketing platform.
The metaverse industry is in its infancy, however. Businesses are still working out successful strategies that will captivate an immersed audience. What follows are the steps necessary for an effective metaverse master plan from industry experts.
How to prepare business for the metaverse
The foundation of any successful business strategy is research. To prepare for the metaverse, companies will need to get acquainted with everything metaverse-related, from the basics to the opportunities that exist in these virtual worlds.
Rohit Talwar is the chief executive of Fast Future and advises clients around the world on disruptive change. His research advice is: “Build a picture of the various metaverses that exist, how they differ, who has a presence, the balance between gaming and leisure and more commercial activities, the technologies involved to build and access them, and who can help develop your presence.”
The next step to start preparing for the metaverse is to choose a platform. David Whelan, chief executive of the metaverse creation platform ENGAGE XR, argues that the target audience is the key to this choice. “We have seen brands in the past run small events on gaming products, where these products might have 150 million users – but 90% are under the age of 12 and all they want to do is troll each other,” said Whelan.
There are reasons why brands might want to design their own metaverse. “Businesses are going to want a level of control for how they are represented and what the end-user experience is like when people come to visit them,” said Whelan
Another factor to take into consideration is accessibility and not singling out potential customers. Fraser Edwards, chief executive and co-founder of the digital payment site cheqd, said: “A lot of consideration needs to be given to what the best experience will be. There is a good reason why Pokemon Go was most people’s first XR [extended reality] experience, despite Oculus Rift being around for a few years. Most of the world had the hardware for it to work, didn’t need to buy anything, and it was good enough.”
But like any development project, there will be a cost to get ready for the metaverse. Talwar recommends that brands should speak to metaverse developers and understand the associated cost. “Armed with these insights, we need to assess if we can build such a presence in-house or use external partners and what the level of investment and timescales might be for what we want to do,” he said.
Currently, it is not going to be feasible for every business to get involved in the metaverse because of the high budgets required, according to Olga Andrienko, the vice-president of brand marketing at Semrush. “Right now I think only consumer brands and big businesses are pursuing this opportunity and this is just because smaller businesses have to still tackle a lot of challenges in the real world,” she said.
Andrienko estimates that within a year, opportunities for smaller brands will start to emerge, however.
Marketing in the metaverse
The metaverse is transforming marketing, opening a creative new way to sell products and services. Instead of billboards or targeted online adverts, businesses now have a chance to get users actively engaged with their brands.
Andrienko gives a long list of possible metaverse marketing tactics, including brand placements, 3D websites, collectable NFTs and direct sales. The formula for developing a successful marketing strategy, she says, is to look at what your business does well and draw on that in the metaverse.
Take Dolce & Gabanna for example: the high-fashion brand is developing luxurious garments for the metaverse. Meanwhile, McLaren is giving fans an opportunity to drive its new F1 car in the online game platform Roblox.
An important factor to consider is to ensure the marketing does not intrude on communities as this could easily tarnish the brand. Andriensko points to Pfizer Brazil’s vaccination campaign as a non-intrusive example: “They gave the [Grand Theft Auto] gamers who were vaccinated a blue badge inside the metaverse and that was very subtle.”
Another tactic is to strike a partnership with metaverses, or even the users. This could be through encouraging user-generated content or collaborating with influencers to increase brand awareness.
While businesses are free to pick their own strategy, it is crucial to ensure the brand is at the centre of any piece of marketing. Al Nolan, head of technical consulting at the consultancy firm Bottle Rocket, said: “Once you just jump in because of a FOMO [fear of missing out] response, you run out of ways to market because you’re just doing what everyone else is doing. It’s very difficult for you to merge a message with your brand around those strategies.”
Nolan recommends that businesses should “wrap a message” on any metaverse product and says incorporating that with creativity and immersion will be crucial to conquering the industry.
Making money in virtual worlds
With a new platform also comes a new revenue stream. The size of this new source of income is still up for debate, but businesses have a number of ways to take advantage of it.
Business-to-consumer brands have potentially the biggest and most obvious application in the metaverse. They can sell their physical products using the platform, whether that is e-commerce or takeaways. These brands could also trade virtual products, such as digital wearables or NFT collectables.
Chris Hunte, the co-founder of Plug Forward, a company set up to help creatives monetise their creations, said: “Brands across various sectors will have the opportunity to rent land, buildings and storefronts to bring their own virtual stores to the metaverse. They can monetise users to sell digital NFT products such as clothing, footwear and art, plus more, as users will want to customise their avatars to life-likeness.”
Hunte points to more creative opportunities for businesses as well. “Brands will have the opportunity to monetise fans through in-game upgrades, subscription services and tickets to virtual concerts, to name a few.”
There will also be a growing opportunity for business-to-business (B2B) services. Nolan points to a real-world example, Kiva Systems, a logistics company that was acquired by Amazon to dramatically improve its logistics. “It is organisations that create those benefits and advancements and acceleration tools and efficiencies inside of these digital worlds that, once those acquisitions start taking place, we’ll start to see some huge gains.”
A recent JP Morgan metaverse report said the metaverse could actually help real-world logistics. Manufacturers could test out their products in a virtual world for a much lower cost, or even build a digital version of their factories to check efficiency.
Nolan thinks companies can take this a step further and use it to improve the well-being of warehouse employees. “There’s an opportunity to create worlds, warehouses, shopkeeping, third-party logistics. There’s a way to keep those employees happy, engaged, gamified, healthy,” he said. “For the architects that create those patterns, there’s huge monetisation there.”
The future for businesses in the metaverse
Google and Facebook adverts transformed the marketing and monetising model of most businesses. The metaverse could be the next iteration of this, the next step for digital business strategies.
Yet, these virtual worlds still have a long way to go before best practices emerge. Nolan said that metaverse developers first need to solve the digital identity problem. The most convenient way for interoperability in this industry is for everyone to have a singular, personal identity that they can take from business to business.
“There’s only one me,” he said. “So, there don’t have to be several different logins. I should be able to tote that [login] around with me and take it back when I’m done with an experience.”
There is plenty of potential for metaverses to transform customers‘ interactions with brands, but the industry is still in its early days. The big players such as Meta, which have announced they are entering the space, are yet to release their own platforms. Once users start climbing aboard in large numbers, businesses can truly start to realise these opportunities.
There are metaverse platforms that already exist. Roblox, Decentraland, Sandbox, Cryptovoxels and Somnium Space are leaders in the industry. However, there is a wave of new platforms being established. These include metaverses from Facebook and Disney.
There are several ways businesses can prepare for the metaverse. Brands should plan out how they intend to wrap their message around their metaverse marketing and products. Companies could also look at previous examples for inspiration, such as the blue badge offered by Pfizer to vaccinated gamers. Research, creativity and immersion are going to be the keys to conquering this industry.
Experts recommend that businesses should prepare for the metaverse. If brands simply take an impulsive reaction, there is a risk that efforts will not resonate with the target audience.